How to live a good Life
Unless you are a doctor on call, the parent of a new-born baby, the president of your country, or a secret agent about to prevent a nuclear explosion, don’t answer your mobile when you are a guest in someone else’ s home. The Earth will go on spinning, even though you’ve missed a call.
How to live a good Life - I
Art & words by Fanitsa Petrou
Be grateful. Be kind. Be moral. Be fearless. Be patient.
Live the moment. Be considerate. Be charitable. Be political. Be a feminist. Support good causes. Fight for your rights. Fight for others. Be a realist. Listen!
Call rather than text.
Eat without guilt. Love without fear.
Know that you can’ t control everything that happens to you.
Know that no matter how much you try to avoid it, bad things will happen. Randomly.
Know that when things look really bad, they could have been far worse - and for countless people, they are! Count your blessings! Know that there are millions of people in the world who have worse problems than yours. (And on top of that, no running water!)
Stop thinking that having money is the key to your happiness: have you EVER seen a genuinely happy rich person?
Know that no matter what you do, you WILL age. And it won’ t be pretty. It happens to everyone, deal with it.
Read more. Cook more. Eat more. (It's good for your soul)
Know that if you find yourself counting the hours ‘till the time you get home from work, the days ’till the weekend, the months ‘till vacation, the years ’till retirement, then it’s time to make a change.
Know that the price you pay for having security is higher than what you gain from it.
Always. ALWAYS! Every fucking time.
Stop obsessing about your looks.
Stop wanting things to be just “so”.
Stop trying to avoid making mistakes. Stop looking for mistakes in others.
Know that you are worthy of love.
Know that not everybody can love you. Or even like you.
Know that you are important. Know that you are not the centre of the universe.
Know that not every relationship has a happy ending - don’t let that stop you from having it.
Know that you can never go back.
Know that it’s OK to screw up. Know that everybody screws up. Know that it’s OK to lose your temper. Know that it’s OK to cry. Know that it’s OK to age. Know that it’s OK to put on weight. (Those who truly love you will still do. Plus it’s one hell of a way to know if they ever really did love YOU or your various body parts, and even then, only at their prime...)
Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Ask for forgiveness.
Leave your childhood behind. Look ahead. Move on.
Be loyal to your friends, family and principles, but update your goals.
Read novels, rather than self-help books (they can teach you more about real life!)
Have a moral code, rather than a religion.
Live your life with integrity.
Call your mum more often.
Have a break. Have a nap. Have a good cry. Have some pie (It’s OK!)
Choose your battles. Choose a job you love to do. Choose a partner who deserves your respect.
Be extra kind to: people who have helped you, or are doing you a favour; people who have invited you to their home; people who know more than you do; people who love you - even if you don’t love them back; people who are older than you; people who are in need, are sick / poor / homeless; people who clean your bathroom; people who are your mum.
Know that all families are dysfunctional.
Know that nobody is happy all the time.
Know that marriage is not for everyone.
Know that your version of perfection is not the only one.
Every once in a while, change your routine (if you do, you will discover that things will start to happen).
Know that having money, doesn’t entitle you to treat people like they are beneath you. Know that not having money, doesn’t make you less important than the rest.
Be aware of your motives. Be conscious of your thoughts. Think before you speak. Listen to what you are saying. Listen to what the other person is saying. Try!
Don’t let the fear of the future destroy your present.
Don’t be defined by how much money you have. Don’t be defined by what others think of you. Don’t express who you are, mostly by your clothes / shoes. Don’t judge others, mostly by their clothes / shoes.
If you are feeling rotten, don’t count it out that you are not actually depressed, but just dissatisfied with your life at the moment. Or possibly hungry...
Open your home to friends. Share your secrets. Show your love. Allow others to love you.
Love your body. Sharpen your mind. Feed your soul.
Dream big. Work hard. Take risks. Know yourself. Spend money. Be messy. Sing aloud. Give hugs. Remember birthdays. Celebrate your own. Offer presents. Support your friends.
Don’t be a racist. Don’t be a fattist. Don’t be an ageist. Don’t be mean. Don't be needy. Don’t be pretentious. Don’t be a taker. Don’t be stingy - with money and emotions.
Bake cakes. Eat vegetables. Eat ice creams. Take walks. Plant flowers. Allow change. Help those who need you.
Don’t get married unless you fall in love AND are prone to compromising.
Know that the more you will understand about Life, then the more you will realise: Love is just not enough...
Don’t believe every compliment. Stop using compliments to gain affection. Stop needing compliments in order to feel like you are worthy.
Know that if you spend a lot of time trying to explain yourself to your partner, that’s because s/he doesn’t get you. And probably because s/he can’t.
Know that being loved by someone does not necessarily mean you deserve it. It is not a compliment, it is someone's life and can sometimes be evidence of how loving THEY are (rather than how lovable YOU are...): become worthy of the love you receive! Or at the very least, respect those who offer it.
On the other hand, know that loving someone, can be evidence of how loving YOU are, rather than how worthy the loved one is: which is to say, no matter how much you wish or need it, those you love, cannot always return your love. Find a way to survive this realisation! (Not to mention, more often than any of us would care we admit, what we see as 'eternal" all consuming love, is nothing but neediness and / or lust...)
Don't make your life smaller, by seeing it as a side-show of someone else's journey.
Know that if you fall in love with someone who doesn’t return your calls, or want to meet you, that’ s because s/he is not interested. (Nobody can be persuaded, or forced into loving you.
And no, the passing of time will not make them love you either).
But know that time does indeed heal all wounds.
Don’t confuse love, with lust. Don’t confuse love, with the need to be accepted. Don’t confuse love, with the need to not be alone. Don’t confuse love, with the need for a little bit of romance. Don’t confuse love, with the need to get married / have kids. And if you are a woman, don’t confuse love, with the need to see yourself as the center of attention at a great party with elaborate flower arrangements, and in one killer of a wedding gown.
Keep away from people who have hobbies, strong religious notions, or opinions about a woman’ s “morals”. Sooner or later, they’ll want to talk about them, and attempt to convert or shame you.
Trust "broken" people. (The dreamers, the depressives, the alcoholics, the eaters, the criers, the lost causes of the world) Only those who have a heart, and who are generous with it, can end up with it being broken...
And BTW, never trust anyone who has remained the same size for decades - if they can live without food, God only knows what they are capable of…
Don’t get all your info from the Internet. Open a book every once in a while.
Don’t go empty-handed when you are invited to a dinner party.
Don’t waste your life trying to change what cannot be changed.
Never assume people are your inferiors just because they have different priorities.
Never assume that your time is more precious than the other person’s.
Don’t text or check your Facebook page /Twitter feed while being with friends, or people who are giving you their time.
Unless you are a doctor on call, the parent of a new-born baby, the president of your country, or a secret agent about to prevent a nuclear explosion, don’t answer your mobile when you are a guest in someone else’ s home. The Earth will go on spinning, even though you’ve missed a call. (Remember, there were parents and families and relationships and friendships that worked fine, even before there were smart phones)
Know that no one really cares about or has the time to watch your Facebook videos. People just “Like” them in hope that you will “Like” theirs in return. Which makes the whole arrangement a little sick. (Unless they are trying to sell something. In which case your "Likes" might mean they will be able to pay their bills... They are about survival not a plea for attention... In which case, you go ahead...)
Beauty, talents, riches are not given to all in equal measures. But remember, ageing is a pretty fair arrangement and given to all. Not to mention that it is preferable to the one alternative offered: death.
Remember also that ageing is also the result of living: the more intensely you live and the more you feel, the more you are open to change and willing to take risks and face the possibilities of a loss, then the more you age. Which is pretty fair. So stop feeling jealous of your high-school friends who may seem to have cheated Father Time. They probably have also cheated Life. If they look younger than you, it's because they have a careful, closed heart that has been untouched by turmoil OR miracles. Which again, sounds pretty fair: You live = you age. You are afraid to live = you look good for a little longer. Choose wisely.
Know that no matter how hard you try to hold on to things, they will sooner or later change. And if they change often, then you will be one of those people whose life is more difficult but their heart more open and their understanding of life broader. (Again, a pretty fair arrangement)
Enjoy the moment, rather than take photos of it with your phone. Live your life rather than document it on Twitter.
Enough with the duck-lips-and-sleepy-eyes-selfies already.
Stop istagraming your salads. (We’ve all seen salads before. Nobody cares to see yours)
Stop being desperate for attention.
Stop posting birthday wishes and public messages to your loved ones on your Facebook wall (instead of privately, to their face, like a normal person). Which is to say stop using your loved ones as a way of proving to your friends that you have a life. Because it’s pathetic. And a proof that you don’t, really.
Stop seeking external validation in order to feel like you are somebody: posing on photos / videos especially created in order to be posted on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and the like, or being the protagonist of some photo collage / video created by some App on Facebook, does not actually make you a star...
Know that spirituality is not about how often you go to church, how much time you spent meditating, fasting, repeating your mantras, writing your positive affirmations, standing on your head, or greeting people with “Namaste” or even having lived in an ashram in India. It’s not about how well you follow the instructions of your priest, spiritual guide, yoga teacher, life coach or guru, or whether you can quote the scriptures, the Bhagavad Gita or your favorite self-help author. And it's not about the platitudes about life and love that you share of facebook either... It’s above all, about who you are in your everyday life: how do you treat your family, friends, employees, people in need, people who have done different sort of choices? How do you react when things become difficult? Or when they go your way? Who are you in your hour of need or triumph? It’s about being fair and kind and humble and understanding. It’s about empathy: feeling a connection with others that prompts you into change, and even self-sacrifice. It’s about understanding the pain of your fellow human being, and feeling the need to do something to sooth it, even when it costs you to do that. And even when nobody knows all about it. And additionally, to do it with no hope of reward.
Even though it is a comforting thought to believe in a universe/genie whose sole purpose of existence is, as the famous saying says, to "conspire" on your behalf and grant you all wishes, no matter how selfish, inappropriate or thoughtless they are, or how they affect other people, do bare in mind that may be you are not always worthy to have everything you want, or it is not always wise to have it all, and may be, just may be, it is not the "universe's" first priority or the best thing for your soul. Just wanting it badly and wishing it intensely may not be enough... Think about this for a moment: is there more intense a wish than that of the mother of the little child who is dying of starvation and wishes to find a morsel of food to help it survive for a little longer? Is there a greater wish than that of the people who are suffering and dying in hospital beds or of the children or women who are being molested by vicious men and wish urgently to escape their nightmare? Don't you think they want it enough for it to happen? And do you think, you making a wish to be rich or thin or famous or find love, is done more intensively than them and is therefore more worthy of fulfilment? The intensity of the wish being the greatest thing about the whole arrangement? In short, contemplate about your place in the universe. Think before you wish. And use your judgement when faced with self-help-like "truths", even though they do tend to flatter your ego... Work on your Self, rather than your "life goals".
Being sad without reason may be due to a chemical imbalance / mental illness, but being sad about something bad that has actually happened to you, doesn’t automatically make you a depressive. It makes you a human being. Give yourself the time to heal. Talk to your friends, rather than your therapist. Take walks on the beach, rather than take a pill. Go to a cafe or a park, rather than to a “healer”, a medium or a religious leader. Think about things on your own, like a grown up, rather than follow the generic step-by-step instructions of a life coach, or a self-help guru who profits from the prolonging of your pain.
Stop boring your friends with thousands of mundane details of your everyday life, unless you are willing to listen to theirs too. And even then: stop boring your friends with thousands of mundane details of your everyday life...
Stop comparing yourself with other people.
Stop comparing your body with other people’ s bodies. This one is yours. And you better start liking it, because you are stuck with it. Plus, look at how well it has been serving you all these years!
MOTHERS: Help your sons understand that there are consequences to their actions, and that all women (not just you) are worthy of their respect. Stop letting your sons get away with murder, and stop criticizing your daughter’s looks / mistakes so harshly. Love yourself, so that the mirror’s reflection you see in them, will be accepted and celebrated. Don’t make shopping for clothes your main bonding time with your daughter. Stop letting your own vanity and your own fear of ageing take over your protective instincts towards your daughter: when people compare you favourably with her, put them in their place: keep her from feeling negated when she is compared to her “young & pretty mum”. Teach her by example, not words, that she is worthy of love. Help her understand that she is not just a body that needs to fit very specific criteria, and a voice that needs to be always supportive, never daring, if she is to ever be loved by a man.
FATHERS: stop expecting the world to be impressed, because you were present during the birth of your child: you were the witness /cameraman of a miracle, not the miracle worker! Be involved in your child’s life. Do the day-to-day, time consuming, boring stuff, not just the pleasant ones. Be a parent, not just a sperm donor! Teach your sons to be responsible, thoughtful human beings, so that they won’t see women only as a source of sex, but as actual human beings! Teach your daughters to be strong and self reliant, so they won’t see men as a source of validation, but as loving partners.
PARENTS IN GENERAL: know that the minute you have kids, nothing is the same. Personal time, personal space, living without fear, are only a few of the things you have to say goodbye to. Stop expecting your life to be the same as before. It will NEVER be the same. Stop expecting your children to be / look like you. Know that you can’t affect 100% what your kids will pick up from TV, the Internet, magazines, their friends, but you can control what YOU do. Allowing your kids to see inappropriate for their age Tv shows, movies or video games, doesn’t make you a liberal parent, it makes you an irresponsible one. Keep their childhood a safe and innocent time. Keep them away from violence and inappropriate sexual material, so that they will grow up to be adults who respect other people, and who consider their own body and sex, as being sacred. Remember that children learn more from your example, than from your words. Words are still powerful: use them in order to praise, guide, set up boundaries, inspire, but never in order to diminish, discriminate, intimidate, criticize, antagonize. Never compare them with their siblings. Never compare them with you! You gave them life, let them live it when they grow up: let them go. Prepare them to live in a new world, not the world of your own youth. Help them find their own dreams, rather than fulfil your own. Don’t overindulge them, so they won’t turn into narcissists, always expecting the world to be impressed by their every sneeze. But let go of your fear they will make a mistake or embarrass you. All you achieve by this, is undermining their self belief which turns them into either scared, anxious, critical, passive aggressive individuals, or bullies. Don’t fight in front of them. Don’t ask them to take sides in your fights. Be consistent. Give them solid principles. Teach them to be considerate.
Mothers: remember that your relationship with your sons, will set the tone for their future relationships with women, while your relationship with your daughters, will set the tone of their relationships with themselves.
Fathers: remember that your relationship with your daughters, will set the tone for their future relationships with men, while your relationship with your sons, will set the tone of their relationships with themselves. And remember that everything you do or say, may affect severely your child’s life, which brings us to: forgive your own parents! Much like you, they too, were given a tough job and they too were probably doing their best.
Whether you are an adult of a child, a man or a woman (especially if you are a woman!): Know that something that prompts you into anticipation is actually the key to happiness. Find it! Don't build your life around a person.
Choose a life goal, rather than a person to be the one single thing upon which you attach your life. It will provide meaning, and make the obstacles bearable, the boring stuff and the bad days easier, and the heartache worthy. But be warned, like all things that prompt us into anticipation, once you reach them, they will never be as great as you have imagined because reality and practicality and the thirst for more, always kick in. Don't let that stop you. Keep reaching. Keep moving.
Stop being afraid.
Stop obsessing about shit.
Enough with the diets already.
Get a dog.
Live your life!
How to Live a Good Life, I – Art & Words Copyright © Fanitsa Petrou. All Rights Reserved.
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